We at Patch have decided to share our five, top-secret pumpkin-carving tips. Implement each of the following steps, which will prolong your jack-o-lantern's lifespan and make carving a simpler and more creative process, and see for yourself why these tips are every master carver's secret weapon:
- Windex, Windex, Windex — Grab a bottle of Windex or other household glass and surface cleaner from under the sink, and tear off a few paper towel sheets. Spray your entire pumpkin, from stem to underside, and wipe away dirt and grime from its skin. This tactic is a preparatory step carvers should take prior to cutting into any pumpkin. Why? Clearing away germs from a pumpkin's skin will ensure that, when you cut out your jack-o-lantern's face, raw areas under the skin will be exposed to less bacteria. Windexing germs away significantly prolongs your jack-o-lantern's lifespan. As your neighbors' pumpkins begin to rot, yours will be visibly untouched by decay. You're welcome.
- Spare A Stem; Cut From The Bottom — If you're used to cutting a circle around your pumpkin's stem and scooping guts from the subsequent hole that appears atop your pumpkin, it's time to begin thinking outside the box. Ever consider cutting a circle out of the bottom, as opposed to the top, of a pumpkin? This simple alteration makes carving a far simpler task. Cut a circle from the bottom of your pumpkin and scoop out its guts. After you've carved your jack-o-lantern's face, reflect on your new status as pumpkin-carving master. Because instead of the game we've all played with top-cut pumpkins—which involves lighting a candle and trying to drop it inside the hole, only to see the flame go out when it hits the bottom—you'll be stress-free and smiling. Set your pumpkin to the side, and place the circle you've cut from the bottom in front of you. Grab a candle, light it, and place on top of the circular cutout. As you grab the rest of your jack-o-lantern, easily placing the sphere on top of the cutout, you'll laugh about the hours you used to waste playing that candle-dropping game.
- Definitely Don't Lose Your Marbles — Remember sitting on the floor with your childhood friends, spending more time comparing your specialty marble collections than actually playing a real game of marbles? It's time to climb the attic stairs and fish out your vast marble collection. Or stop by the dollar store and pick up some new ones (the clearer and less decorative the marbles, the better). After carving out your jack-o-lantern's face, use a pen or other circular pointed object to punch a few holes into your pumpkin. Stick a marble in each hole, light a candle, and place it into the pumpkin. Your jack-o-lantern will be adorned with brightly illuminated marbles, casting a unique glow you can't achieve by simply cutting holes into a pumpkin. Use marbles to depict your jack-o-lantern's teeth, dimples, eyeball pupils, or other creative features.
- It's Okay to Be Seedy — After you've scooped out your pumpkin innards, pick as many seeds from those stringy guts as you can. While you're picking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Rinse seeds, and combine every half-cup of seeds you've picked with two cups of water. Sprinkle one half of a tablespoon-worth of salt into every one cup of seedy water. Have a salty tooth? Add more. Dump the entire mixture into a pot and bring to a boil on your stove. Simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes, then drain water from the seeds using a collander. Grab a flat oven pan, and coat the bottom using a tablespoon-or-so of olive oil. Spread your seeds onto the pan in a single layer. Set the pan in your oven and bake anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes, depending on how brown and toasty you like your seeds. Remove from heat, let cool, and enjoy. Trust us—once you pop the first seed into your mouth, it's just not an option to stop.
- Don't Hate Your Guts — Want to do something with all those guts you scooped from the inside of your pumpkin, besides throwing them in the trash? You've come to the right place, and you've got a couple different options. Maybe your jack-o-lantern is feeling ill. Place him out front of your house, then carry out the pumpkin guts. Place them into his carved mouth, spreading them downward until they're trailing onto the ground. You've got yourself a vomiting pumpkin. Tired of all the male-looking jack-o-lanterns you see around town? Take your pumpkin's guts and arrange them around its stem. Your pumpkin-lady will probably win Best Halloween Hair. Does your pumpkin have a cold? Voilá! Pumpkin boogers. The options are simply endless.
- Give Your Pumpkin A Shave — Hacking away at pumpkin meat is certainly necessary to successfully form a jack-o-lantern's eyes and facial features. But master carvers know that an essential trick of the trade is barely below skin-deep. After you've carved out full chunks and you've completed all facial features, put that big knife away, and pull out a smaller instrument (cuticle removers and Exact-o knives work well, but a smaller, non-serrated knife works as well). Instead of piercing the pumpkin's skin head-on, use the instrument you've chosen and shave away areas around your jack-o-lantern's eyes, mouth and other features. Shave enough to peel away the skin and a few layers of pumpkin meat, but don't push all the way through. When illuminated, shaved areas will glow with a different hue than those fully carved-out chunks. This shading gives your glowing masterpiece a 3-D, shadow-box effect. It is one of the masters' best tricks.
Do you have any secrets of your own to share? Tell us in the comments.